Hydrogen Offers Germany a Chance to Take a Lead in Green Energy

In the city of Duisburg in Germany’s industrial heartland is a vast steel complex that is one of Europe’s largest polluters. But alongside the mill’s furnaces and smelters, technicians have developed a machine that could soon play a vital role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

By using electricity to split water into its two elements, the device, a test model called an electrolyzer, produces hydrogen, a carbon-free gas that could help power mills like the one in Duisburg. If adopted widely, the devices could help clean up heavy industry, such as steel-making, in Germany and elsewhere.

“We are maybe in one of those few very promising industries where Germany has a significant and very promising base,” said Werner Ponikwar, chief executive of ThyssenKrupp Nucera, which produces the electrolyzers. The company was spun off from ThyssenKrupp, a German steel giant, in 2023.

The Nucera project was backed by a German government fund worth 700 million euros, or $746 million. Overall, German state and federal governments have earmarked €13.2 billion for investment in about two dozen projects to develop hydrogen.

The concept of hydrogen as a renewable energy source has been around for years, but only within the past decade has the idea of its potential to replace fossil fuels to power heavy industry taken off, leading to increased investment and advances in the technology.

The coking plant of ThyssenKrupp in Germany’s Ruhr Valley, which remains one of the most important industrial regions in the world.Credit…Felix Schmitt for The New York Times

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